PARIS – French and Israeli dignitaries gathered at the National Assembly’s Victor Hugo Amphitheater on Wednesday, to commemorate 40 years since then-Israeli envoy to the UN Chaim Herzog delivered a historic speech to the General Assembly, condemning the UN’s resolution that said Zionism is racism.
In this speech in November 1975, Herzog symbolically tore up a copy of General Assembly Resolution 3379, pushed through by the Soviet and Arab blocs.
“For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such,” he said.
The Chaim Herzog Public Memorial Council and the European Leadership Network (ELNET) joined forces with National Assembly deputy Meyer Habib, to organize the evening. Habib, a French-Israeli dual citizen, represents the Eighth Constituency for French residents overseas, which covers Cyprus, Greece, the Vatican, Israel, Italy, Malta, San Marino and Turkey.
The commemoration on Wednesday followed similar events at UN headquarters in New York (with Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking), at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence in Jerusalem, and at the Knesset, hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In Paris, from the Israeli side, the late Chaim Herzog’s son Brig.-Gen. (res.) Mike Herzog, a fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute and at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was present, alongside his brother businessman Joel Herzog, hi-tech entrepreneurs Yossi Vardi and Ambassador to France Aliza Bin-Noun. A surprise guest, Jean Friedman, who witnessed Chaim Herzog’s speech at UN headquarters 40 years ago, accompanied Mike Herzog to the gathering in Paris. Friedman fought in the French resistance, and became friends with Chaim Herzog at the end of World War II.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, Chaim Herzog’s son, was scheduled to take part at the event. He had to cancel his visit at the last minute, sending a video message which was aired at the National Assembly. The French representation was also impressive: Jean-Marie Le Guen, the minister in charge of the relations with the parliament, members of parliament, senior officials from the Socialist Party, representatives of civil society, religious leaders and of course leaders of the Jewish community arrived at the National Assembly hall on Rue de l’Université.
Mike Herzog told The Jerusalem Post that holding such an event in Paris had special meaning, both personally and nationally. “From the national perspective – it is the fourth commemoration of my father’s historic speech, and the first we are holding in Europe. It was important for us to hold these gatherings in places which would not necessarily be the obvious or the first choice that comes to mind. We held an event at the UN – a sort of ‘back to the crime’ scene, and now we are having one in Paris, at the National Assembly, the very heart of the French nation and governing institutions, as a seal of approval,” he said.
On the personal side, he noted that his father had a special connection with France and the French people, having fought here as a soldier in the British Army during WWII.
“The message that my father related back then at the UN is still relevant today, perhaps more than ever before,’’ Mike Herzog said. “My father viewed the attempt to affiliate Zionism with racism as a form of anti-Semitism and also as a form of attack on liberal values.
This is the message that I am bringing with me today to the people of Europe and to the international community,” Mike Herzog said.
Bin-Noun, speaking to the Post, affirmed the importance of the event in combating those who liken Zionism to racism.
“These voices are all around us. The BDS movement uses these arguments constantly,” the ambassador said.
“And so, we must continue the battle of explaining what Zionism really is, and denouncing this miserable UN 1975 decision, canceled in 1991, against Zionism, against us.”
The commemoration opened with the screening of extracts from Herzog’s speech, followed by recorded greets from Netanyahu and Isaac Herzog.
Le Guen said in his speech, “This definition of Zionism at the UN resolution is false and also unbearable... Chaim Herzog in his words reflected the spirit of Theodor Herzl...Israel is a democracy, and we must object to any attempts to criticize the values which the Jewish people have upheld for centuries.”